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Sedition case respondents want OSG disqualified as police representative

FOUR RESPONDENTS in the sedition case before the Department of Justice (DoJ) asked the prosecution panel to disqualify the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) from representing the police during the preliminary investigation of their complaint. In two separate motions, lawyers Jose Manuel I. Diokno, Theodore O. Te, and Lorenzo R. Tañada III, all represented by the The Free Legal Assistance Group, and former Magdalo Party-list representative Gary C. Alejano cited a 1990 Supreme Court (SC) decision which prohibits participation of the OSG in preliminary investigations. “By parity of principle, if the OSG lawyers for a complainant public officer during a preliminary investigation, it effectively likewise fetters itself to a position that would prevent it from credibly performing its role as the People’s Tribune, should a private respondent’s conviction be challenged on appeal, and should the OSG decide at the time that the public interest is better served by reversing the conviction,” Messrs. Diokno, Te, and Tañada stated. Mr. Alejano also said the participation of the OSG may result in possible conflict of interest if the case reaches the appellate court, should the preliminary probe rule in favor of the respondents. The OSG then will have to choose if it will act as counsel for the police or the DoJ, the office to which it is attached. The Philippine National Police-Criminal Investigation Group last month filed a complaint of sedition, inciting to sedition, cyberlibel, libel, estafa, harboring a criminal and obstruction of justice against Vice President Maria Leonor G. Robredo and 35 other people allegedly involved in an plot to unseat President Rodrigo R. Duterte. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas

Solon files bill for medical cannabis regulating agency

CAMARINES SUR 2nd District Rep. Luis Raymund F. Villafuerte Jr. has filed a bill for the establishment of an agency that will oversee the production of medical cannabis in the country. House Bill 3961 proposes the creation of the Philippine Cannabis Development Authority (PhilCADA). Mr. Villafuerte said under the measure, only agricultural state universities that will be authorized or sponsored by the PhilCADA will be allowed during the prescribed experimental period to grow and cultivate specific cannabis species. After this period, private enterprises would then be allowed to grow and cultivate the plants. The solon noted that cannabis will not only be beneficial for medical treatments “but also the government in terms of export revenues that can be tapped from its potential $57-billion market as medical cannabis is now legal and used for health.” Mr. Villafuerte stressed that medical cannabis refers to cannabidiol or CBD, which is the non-intoxicating strain of cannabis or marijuana plant. “Cannabis needs to be legalized in the Philippines for medical, scientific and research purposes,” he said. “The Cannabis plants and its medical grade products have high demand and economic value for export. Hence, Philippine laws should be passed that will see medical cannabis become a fully commercialized crop within the next five years.”— Vince Angelo C. Ferreras

DoJ calls on CSC to draft specific guidelines on gifts that gov’t workers may accept

JUSTICE SECRETARY MENARDO I. GUEVARRA — PCOO.GOV.PH

JUSTICE SECRETARY Menardo I. Guevarra has suggested that the Civil Service Commission set specific guidelines on the value of gifts that government workers may receive without violating anti-graft and ethical rules. “The CSC may create guidelines to implement the provision of the law,” he told reporters. He noted that the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and Code of Conduct Ethical Standards for Public Officers have no specific rules on the amount or gift value that can be accepted by government officials as a token of appreciation. “Unless of course the Civil Service Commission would give an exact or precise definition, let’s say no gift exceeding P1,000 in any occasion so pwede gawin ‘yun ng (it can be done by) CSC. But right now, wala ngang ganung klaseng (there is no such) rule, kaya (that’s why it is) flexible, so very relative ang concept,” he said. The Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act prohibits government workers from directly receiving or indirectly requesting a gift, with the exception of unsolicited gifts or presents of small or insignificant amount viewed as mere token of gratitude. The Code of Ethics, on the other hand, prohibits acceptance of gifts in the course of official duties. Mr. Guevarra said gift-giving is part of the Filipino culture, but any gift must not affect of influence any official action. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas

DoH targets 196,000 children for polio immunization

THE DEPARTMENT of Health(DoH) targets to immunize 196,000 children this year with the polio vaccine, citing higher risk of polio transmission 19 years since the Philippines was declared polio-free. DoH Undersecretary Rolando Enrique D. Domingo, during Monday’s Synchronized Polio Vaccination Kickoff activity in Manila, said they are starting the immunization program in the city because of the high risk considering population density and sanitation hazzards. “Among the cities in the Philippines, Manila is one na nakikita natin na may (that we see with a) potential na magkaroon ng (to have)… the poliovirus,” he said. Polio is a contagious disease caused by poliovirus, which infects the brain and spinal cord, resulting to paralysis or even death. The virus attacks children below the age of five. The DoH reported over the weekend that vaccination coverage for polio has decreased from the 95% needed in order to ensure a population is considered free of polio. Children below five years old will be able to avail of the free oral polio vaccine under the program. The DoH also advises to keep surroundings clean and sanitary. Practising personal hygiene and staying away from dirty areas also help prevent polio. — Gillian M. Cortez

Duterte favors separate public toilets for transgender people

PRESIDENT RODRIGO R. Duterte wants separate public toilets for transgender people, Malacañang said. “Ang sinasabi niya, dapat meron ng (What he said was there should be a) third rest room for them,” Presidential Spokesperson Salvador S. Panelo said in an interview on ANC on Monday. He added that they talked about the issue last Sunday. Mr. Panelo said he agrees with the President “para wala nang problema ‘di ba (so that there will be no more conflicts), that will solve everything.” The case of transgender Gretchen Diez against a Quezon City mall, where she was barred from using the women’s toilet, prompted public discussion on giving more rights to the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) community. — Arjay L. Balinbin

Leonen declines nomination for chief justice

SUPREME COURT (SC) Associate Justice Marvic Mario Victor F. Leonen has declined his automatic nomination for chief justice, SC Public Information Office Chief Brian Keith F. Hosaka told reporters in a text message. Chief Justice Lucas P. Bersamin is set to leave his post on October 18 when he reaches the mandatory retirement age of 70. Mr. Leonen, in a statement, said, “I confirm that I have declined the nomination of the Court en banc to the position of Chief Justice vice Chief Justice Lucas Bersamin… There is no requirement to state our reasons for declining the nomination. For now, in my considered judgement, my decision is the right thing to do for myself, this Court and this country. I will be able to do what I do best for our people in my current position at this time.” The SC’s five senior associate justices are automatically nominated to the top post, but subject to their acceptance. The other senior associate justices are Antonio T. Carpio, who will retire on October 26, Diosdado M. Peralta, Estela M. Perlas-Bernabe, and Benjamin Caguioa. Mr. Hosaka said the other four have not yet responded on their nomination. Deadline for application for chief justice is on August 20. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas

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